Homesick for a place that doesn't exist

posted 31 January 2005

I went to see Garden State this evening. It's an excellent movie with quite important things to say, and it also made me think a lot -- not necessarily about what was in the movie.

You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden, even though you have some place where you can put your shit, that idea of home is gone. You’ll see when you move out... it just sort of happens one day, and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.

This evening, I was talking to a friend, and -- in the context of trying to find someone to date who was similar to me -- I said that "I've given up on the idea of being unique". She completely disagreed. I was defensive about it, and like most things I am defensive about, it's probably true. I'm unique, or I damn well better be.

I've always tried to be unique. But growing up, I didn't have any stuff I could really be unique about. I was, it was clear, going to be good at all the same things my darling brothers were good at. I could better than them, or worse than them, but I was hardly unique. So faced with the inability to have a unique talent, I fell into the trap that too many people fall into, and defined my identity by my weaknesses, not my strengths.

Too many people do this. Too many people build their whole personality around being "emotional", or disorganized, or clingy. They make a fuss about their allergies, exaggerate their fears until they are phobias, accentuate their dislikes until they are hatreds. I know, because I've done all these things myself, while denying to myself that I was doing so. But I did. I searched for ways of being different by rejecting the things I knew I'd be good at, simply because they'd already been done.

And I think that's why I clung so tightly, and so long, to the gay identity. Now, here was a uniqueness! It's not just an infirmity in the eyes of many, it's a culture! I can adopt a whole history of oppression and hatred and claim it as my own, and be arrogant about others' ignorance and melodramatic about how tortured I am and aggressive about how I tell other people about it. I can be Gay with a capital G. It's not pretend, it's not exaggerated, I really am gay. So, so gay.

This is not to belittle the very real, and very horrible, situation that millions of gay people around the world have been, are in, and will be in in future. It's not even to belittle how I felt at the time -- I really did have that horrible time, I really did get depressed, I really did plan that suicide. It all happened. I'm certainly still gay -- well, queer -- and I still believe that we have rights we have not yet won, and that are worth fighting for. Above all, I still believe the term is we.

But in my own, little, personal story, I have to acknowledge some truths. So there's a minor little tweak, a few words to friends who need to know, and not a whole lot of change in behaviour. Just saying when a girl is hot, when I wouldn't have before. Acknowledging that my sudden friendliness is attraction, and not just a good mood. Probably, beyond this, nothing will ever happen that would have happened before. But it's important to admit the possibility.

I don't have to limit myself to be different: I don't have to stay with negatives. I don't have to skip that sport, or overreact to that fear, or ignore that sex. I am my positives: my strengths, my skills, and my attractions. And I am unique in them.


Update: sorry to break the tone of the post, but I just have to say there is an incredibly hot boy in my living room right now. Dammit, why did housemate B have to wait until I was leaving to bring this one around?

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